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The only way then to bring down a May government would be the nuclear option — voting against it in a confidence vote on the floor of the House. The consequences of this would, of course, be disastrous for the Conservatives. It would either mean that Jeremy Corbyn could cobble together an extremely unstable minority government if the Brexiteers agreed not to vote it down, but which they could bring down at any time of their choosing, or — more likely — bring about an early election.

Such an election would be an extremely messy affair. Brexiteer Conservative MPs would be readopted by their Eurosceptic Conservative associations and the central Conservative Party would have to choose whether or not to run candidates against them.

If the central party did put up candidates the Brexiteers would certainly also put up rival candidates against May loyalists, and the Conservative Party would be irrevocably split. If the central party did not put up candidates it would permanently demolish the authority of the whips’ office, with MPs remaining in the party even if they had committed the most heinous of crimes, voting to bring down their own government.

In the end, most Eurosceptic MPs would probably draw back from taking this nuclear option — but the government’s majority is so small that it would only need seven or eight to do so for the government to fall. It is significant that many more than that are even contemplating such a path. May really does have some tough choices to make.
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